Waterman killers land 50, 99 years in jail

Co-conspirator Arrant given 99 years, but judge suspends 49

Posted: Friday, March 10, 2006

The judge in the Lauri Waterman murder case sentenced Brian Radel on Wednesday to serve 99 years in jail and Jason Arrant to serve 50 years for killing the mother of their former girlfriend, Rachelle Waterman.

The two had testified against Rachelle Waterman during her murder-conspiracy trial, which ended in a hung jury voting 10-2 to acquit her of arranging her mother's death. The girl was freed on bail from Lemon Creek Correctional Center on Wednesday, a day after the judge tossed out the indictment against her. Prosecutors still could refile charges against her.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins handed Radel a term of 99 years with no time suspended, saying he had spent weeks planning the murder and committed several additional crimes, including kidnapping, burglary and tampering with evidence. Those crimes were dismissed as part of his plea bargain with the state.

It was Radel who, in November 2004, brutally killed the 48-year-old Craig woman with his bare hands, torturing her in the process, Collins said at the end of the afternoon sentencing hearing in Craig Court.

Arrant was sentenced to 99 years, with 49 suspended - a total of 50 years to serve - for his part in recruiting Radel to do the dirty work. Before he was sentenced, he said he committed the crime for Rachelle Waterman.

"She told me she believed her life was in danger, and I bought it hook, line and sinker because I loved her with all my heart," he said.

Neither man sought to excuse himself, but both tried to portray their acts as being in defense of Rachelle Waterman, who, then 16 years old, purportedly convinced them that she had been severely abused by her mother and was in danger of being killed.

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Collins didn't buy it and recited several options for helping an abuse victim, short of murdering the alleged abuser, that the judge said "your basic 8-year-old would know before taking violence into their own hands."

If they truly believed Rachelle Waterman's bruises were the result of abuse, they could have alerted neighbors, called a social worker, contacted police or confronted Lauri Waterman or her husband, Carl "Doc" Waterman, Collins said.

Speaking of Radel, Collins said she didn't believe that he had truly believed that he had to murder the woman on behalf of his friends.

"If he is not capable of seeing the other obvious alternatives that were open to him, I think that makes him more dangerous."

Radel's lawyer, public defender Marvin Hamilton, portrayed his client as having come from an abusive home. He said Radel could easily believe and empathize with Waterman.

"He wanted to prove, most of all, he wasn't selfish," Hamilton said. "He wanted to prove he could act selflessly."

Like the fictional Huckleberry Finn, Hamilton said, Radel decided to do a bad thing "for a noble reason."

Hamilton read several passages from Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and Clarence Darrow's "Attorney for the Damned" in his appeal for mercy for his client.

Arrant's attorney, Michael Pate of Sitka, called Anchorage psychologist Susan LaGrande as a witness to testify about his client's background.

LaGrande said she had spent a day with Arrant, conducting several psychological tests that told her Arrant had a troubled childhood, had trouble making friends or having relationships and had become a fragile, moody, socially isolated person. He had retreated into reading fantasy books and video games, she said. He had attempted suicide by cutting himself but was so withdrawn that other people didn't realize how sick he was, LaGrande said.

The psychological testing resulted in scores that surprised her, she said.

"His paranoia scale was off the chart," LaGrande said.

Arrant's parents, Doug and Linda Arrant, also testified on their son's behalf.

Doug Arrant said his son had been a lonely, sad child who rarely caused trouble and who apologized for any misdeeds.

As a teen and young adult, he was evasive about relationships, his father said.

He said he had warned Jason to stay away from Rachelle Waterman and told him, "She's jail bait."

In his sentencing remarks, Ketchikan District Attorney Stephen West described the crime as a "cold-blooded execution."

Although Arrant was unable to perform the brutal acts Radel carried out, and threw up while watching what occurred, he remained just as guilty as Radel, West said.

The prosecutor asked Collins to sentence Arrant to 75 years, with 25 suspended.

Pate asked Collins to sentence his client to 50 years, with 15 suspended.

All of this started with his being in love with Rachelle Waterman, Pate said.

"He honestly believed she was in danger," Pate said.

The murder only could have occurred because of the three personalities involved, he said.

"With what (Arrant) knows now, it could never happen again," Pate said.

Arrant read from handwritten notes before Collins sentenced him.

"I can never say how sorry I am," he said. "What I did was a horrible thing. I won't dispute that by pretending to be innocent. ... I did what I did because Rachelle Waterman asked me to. She told me stories of abuse, both mental and physical. She showed me bruises on her arms, her legs and her back to support these claims."

Not many people get a second chance after committing such a crime, Arrant acknowledged.

"But I guess I'm asking for one just the same," Arrant said. "I'm asking for the chance to pay a debt that can never be paid, and a chance to make something of the life I threw away with my actions. I'm asking for the mercy I was too blind to grant and I'm asking for forgiveness that I don't deserve."

He turned to the courtroom audience, to Doc Waterman, and said he wouldn't insult him by asking for his forgiveness.

"You have every right to hate me. Instead, I can only offer my deepest apologies and regrets for whatever that may be worth."

He also apologized to the people of Prince of Wales Island.

"And to Lauri Waterman, if you're listening, I can never tell you enough how sorry I am, no matter how many prayers I offer up. Rest in paradise."

He asked that no one call him a cold-blooded, remorseless killer.

In her remarks, Collins noted that testimony in Rachelle Waterman's trial indicated that Arrant also had asked Radel to murder a former boyfriend of Rachelle Waterman's.

"I believe you are a cold-blooded killer," Collins said to Arrant.

Arrant had no prior record, Collins said, but testimony and investigation revealed that he had discussed earning big money by growing marijuana with Radel. He had a sexual relationship with 15-year-old Rachelle Waterman and he provided pornography to a 14-year-old boy, said Collins.

She recommended that he be housed in a prison where psychological help would be available.

Radel also spoke briefly before his sentencing, but not from prepared notes.

"I wish Lauri were alive today," he said.

Doc Waterman spoke briefly before Arrant's sentencing, saying he deserved the maximum penalty of 99 years.

The Watermans' neighbors, Don and Lorraine Pierce, also asked for maximum penalties for both men.

The crime changed life in Craig and Prince of Wales Island, said Don Pierce.

"People no longer walk down the street without looking at who else is there, what might happen," he said. "Our sense of trust is no longer as steadfast as it once was.

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